Howard County reverses tragic trend in opioid-related deaths, but sees more nonfatal overdoses

It’s an addiction that continues to claim thousands of lives each year nationwide — the fatal grip of prescription opioids. But one of the hardest hit counties in Maryland is now seeing fewer overdose deaths.

The Howard County Health Department recorded 41 total overdose deaths in 2018, three-quarters of them opioid-related. This year, opioids have been the cause of eight fatal overdoses.

“Since 2016, more than 130 people have died in Howard County from an overdose. What we’ve found is that while opioid deaths in Maryland are over 2,000, deaths in Howard County are down by about 25.5% this year,” said county executive Calvin Ball.

Reducing opioid deaths is a goal Ball considers a personal charge. He formulated a plan with Governor Larry Hogan and the state’s opioid operation command center within his first 30-days in office, he said.

“We’re going to be taking opioid-makers and distributors to court. Hopefully, that’ll help in getting it off the street,” Ball said.

Along with a 24/7 crisis service made possible through a $1 million state grant, Howard opened its first county-owned addition treatment facility, Howard House, last month.

“We are going to have one of the most innovative public-private partnerships that’ll be a 4-year, $3 million commitment with a 60-bed facility in Howard County to revive the full continuum of inpatient treatment with the county being guaranteed nine placements a month.

Ball called it innovative to have a place where Howard County residents can stay while they go through addiction treatment where they know people and where they are loved.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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